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A-10 Tournament: Dukes lose on last-second tip-in by St. Louis

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Davell Roby's tip-in with two seconds left lifted St. Louis over Duquesne, 72-71, in the opening round of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

PITTSBURGH - Duquesne never dropped the lead for 39 minutes and 58.4 seconds of Wednesday night’s game.

That other 1.6 seconds lost them the whole darn thing.

In a slugfest that saw Duquesne (10-22) hold as much as an 18-point lead in the second half, it was Saint Louis (12-20) that won the game on a last second shot, pushing the Dukes out of the Atlantic-10 Tournament in the second opening round game Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena.

The Billikens went on a 35-16 run to close the game after suffering an 18-point deficit after a Mike Lewis layup made it 55-37 with 15:20 left in the second half.

“I thought our kids played extremely hard tonight,” said coach Jim Ferry. “I don’t think I’ve really ever been involved in a more devastating loss at the end of the season like what just transpired. We had 10 games this year like this. It comes down to turnovers, free throws and rebounds. I thought we did almost everything we needed to do to win the game, but we didn’t.”

Lewis, who finished with a game-high 22 points on 7 of 15 shooting served as the catalyst for the Dukes who have now lost 10 games when holding at least an eight point lead or better.

Isiah Mike and Tarin Smith each finished with 14-a-piece, while Emile Blackman closed out the double-digit scoring for Duquesne with 12, while also adding a team-best five assists.

“It’s come to an end and we all know that that point comes at some time,” said the senior Blackman, who acknowledged his final game as a Duke. “I just hope that this year I had was impactful and I hope that I set an example and that everybody else in the locker room learned everything that I conveyed on them. Work hard and try to get the best out of everybody around you. There are some positives from this situation and I am looking at those now.”

Saint Louis tarnished the seniors’ hope of a tournament run when with just 1.6 seconds left in the game, Davell Roby corralled an offensive rebound off the side of the backboard and finished on a layup to give the Billikens its first lead of the game, the 72-71 score that would hold up as the final.

Roby finished with eight points, while forward Elliott Welmer led all Saint Louis scorers with 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting. Mike Crawford (16) and Reggie Agbeko (16) closed out the double-digit scoring for the winning squad.

“I really just closed my eyes, grabbed it and threw it in,” said Roby on the successful, game-winning put-back.

First year coach Travis Ford had much more to say about his squads almost surreal comeback.

“If that’s not march madness I don’t know what is,” the coach said. “First half we couldn’t get anything going. We shot 56% at half but we couldn’t guard anybody. We just looked like we were sluggish. We cut it to 5-6 (in the second half) but they went back up 18; and during that timeout I told our defense we have to start creating offense or we don’t have a chance. We have to press, attack the rim and we did. These guys continue to amaze me.”

Duquesne, who held a 42-32 advantage at the break shot 46% from the field in the first 20 minutes, knocking down seven of those from beyond-the-arc.

The Billikens battled back thanks to a cavalcade of field goals in the paint, where Saint Louis held a 46-18 advantage, helping the squad to a 29 of 56 (51.8%) overall performance from the field.

“We wanted to take advantage of their mismatch size wise so we tried to get inside as much as possible,” Ford said. “It wasn’t the offense as much as it was the defense, we couldn’t stop anybody. They made seven threes in the first half and I was telling our coaches at halftime, that every stat was going against us. There was a lot of adversity that went on that wasn’t going our way. I said it was amazing at halftime that we weren’t down 25.”

Ferry, who watched his Dukes let a 12-point second half lead slip away to St. Joseph’s, who beat them 63-60 just four days ago, talked about the positives of learning from games like these.

“It ain’t going to get any worse. These are devastating losses,” Coach explained. “I think we were in 10 of them and we only won one. I think it will make us better. It will make me better as a coach. They will win more, they will win two, three, four. They just never got it going this year because of confidence.”

Saint Louis will move on to face George Washington in the night cap of the four-game first round tournament schedule. The first game starts at noon when LaSalle faces Davidson. All games can be seen on NBC Sports Network.

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